Woman among two more killed in Army firing in Kulgam; toll 43
Separatists reject Rajnath’s offer of talks, extend shutdown to July 22
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
SRINAGAR: With the killing of two more civilians, including a woman, in the security forces’ firing in Kulgam district of South Kashmir, death toll in the 10-day-long Valley-wide turbulence after the killing of militant Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8, has reached 43.
Well-placed official sources told STATE TIMES that a crowd of around 200 people, who had blocked the road at Churhat village in Kulgam district, were shouting pro-Azadi, pro-Pakistan and anti-India slogans at around sunset. Meanwhile, a bullet-proof Casper of Rashtriya Rifles 9th battalion was spotted returning to the Army camp in Devsar area. As the crowd blocked its way and subjected the vehicle to intense stone pelting, soldiers from inside opened fire.
Forty-eight-year old Saja Begam wife of Ghulam Hassan Mir and 22-year-old Showkat Ahmad Itoo died on spot while as five more protesters sustained injuries. Three of them with minor injuries were rushed to Qazigund and given medical treatment. Two more with critical injuries were admitted to District Hospital of Anantnag. One of them was reportedly stable after a surgery and another was likely to be rushed to a hospital in Srinagar.
A Police spokesman said in a press release: “Today in the evening an army mobile domination patrol party while moving towards Devsar tried to clear a road blockade erected by miscreants at Churaht Qazigund. The security force party while removing the obstructions came under heavy stone pelting by the miscreants from two sides. The Army party warned the mob to maintain distance but it did not relent. Some miscreants tried to snatch weapons from them and tried to set ablaze the vehicles. Despite repeated warnings the mob did not disperse and army fired in self-defence in an effort to move out from the spot. Six persons were injured, two of whom later on succumbed to their injuries”.
With the addition of two fatal casualties, death toll in the 10-day-long turbulence in Kashmir has reached 43, including a Police driver. However, officially it is mentioned as 36. Notwithstanding some incidents of stone pelting, situation on the 10th consecutive day of shutdown and curfew in many parts of the Valley was by and large under control till evening. In the evening everyday people at several places attack Police and security forces at the time of withdrawal of deployments. Separatist leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have called for “peaceful protest demonstrations” after the evening prayers at mosques daily.
Shutdown extended to July 22
Curfew imposed by the authorities and shutdown called by the separatist organisations in the wake of Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8, have been running parallel to each other. Even at the third extension, the separatist leaders this evening extended shutdown to July 22. They announced the first relaxation from 1400 hours on next Thursday. On July 20, Pakistan has called for observance of ‘Black Day’ in that country and Jammu and Kashmir over Burhan Wani’s killing followed by more than 40 civilian killings.
In a statement, the separatist leaders this evening rejected union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s offer of “engagement with the people” and they dismissed it as “militaristic”. In his speech in Rajya Sabha, Singh had earlier said that he would visit Kashmir, stay at Nehru Guest House and “talk to the Kashmiris” after restoration of normality. He revealed that he was constantly in touch with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and had expressed his desire to come down to Srinagar for engaging the Kashmir in a dialogue. He said Mehbooba suggested that this process should be initiated after restoration of peace and after her visit to New Delhi. Around 2,000 civilians and 1,600 Police and security forces’ personnel have sustained injuries in the intermittent clashes in the last 10 days. Around 200 of them are still under treatment at different hospitals. Around 600 have been reportedly injured in teargas and pellet gun firing. As many as 25 Police installations, including 8 Police Stations, have been severely damaged in the mob attacks while as 49 other government offices and installations have been set on fire.
Authorities have closed down all mobile telephone networks excluding post-paid and landline services of BSNL. Internet through GPRS on all mobile phone services has been frozen and it is currently operational only through landline Broadband service of BSNL. In North Kashmir, all telephone and Internet services have been blocked. Authorities have also seized newspapers and directed the editors not to publish their dailies till next orders.
Mattoo says heads will roll
Chief Editor of Kashmir News Service Mohammad Aslam told STATE TIMES late this evening that owners of all the local news gathering agencies have been directed verbally by District Magistrate of Srinagar Dr Farooq Ahmad Lone not to circulate their daily bulletins “for the next two three days”. Interestingly, Chief Minister’s Advisor Prof Amitabh Mattoo told NDTV this evening that the State government had not ordered any ban on media. He asserted that “heads will roll” as the officers involved in the crackdown on media will be taken to task.